Well, after several years of denying the inevitable, I've finally gotten myself into the DBZ fandom, for good this time. I blame TeamFourStar. Once again, an abridged series has gotten me re-into (or just plain into in this case) an actual series. So despite the sub-par animation, blatant abuse of steroids, and twists that repeatedly bend or outright defy The Rules of the story's universe simply for the sake of plot advancement and/or convenience, I think it's safe to say that I am indeed a fan of DragonBall Z. The characters are interesting, and it's the characters are most important to a story in my opinion.

Anyway, enjoy one of my trademark ficlets. =D

Disclaimer: DBZ is copyrighted to Akira Toriyama, not me.

Vegeta remembered a time when Bulma looked at him with such fear in her eyes. She would shrink in terror at the very mention of his name, trembling down to her core. Vegeta drank in the fear, reveled in it. Fear was his continual reminder that he was powerful, one of the most powerful in the universe. Not that he needed the reminder, but it always gave him a little thrill of pleasure to crush another's spirit beneath the heel of his boot, just as his people had been crushed. Whenever someone looked at him like that (and it happened quite often), he knew that he was Vegeta, Saiyan Prince, last descendant of an ancient bloodline and destined to someday rule the world.

Now, years after circumstance and several life-debts had forced him into an uneasy truce with those he sought to destroy, he found himself once again on the receiving end of Bulma's cornflower gaze. But the look in her eyes was the polar opposite of fear. And Vegeta could not bring himself to look away.

"Don't you have a lover, you twit?" he snapped. "Black hair, scarred face? I believe I killed him a couple of times?"

Bulma's eyes turned from sky blue to steel in an instant, a change as dramatic and - frightening? - as Kakarrot's transformation to Super Saiyan. "And I wouldn't mind if you killed him again," she snarled. "He's got plenty of his own lovers, and I guarantee you he won't miss me one bit!" Then her face softened again, though her stare lost none of its intensity. "And it wasn't you."

"Excuse me?"

"Those little green guys killed Yamcha. Not you."

Vegeta blinked once. Just once.

"Why don't you just drop the tough-guy act and come with us?"

Gods, this girl! This stupid, condescending, interfering, overassertive, meddlesome... female! She'd been positively insufferable ever since he'd taken up long-term residence on this tiny, backwater planet. What in the world had ever given her the moronic idea that he wanted or needed her pathetic help anyway? The very idea was an insult to his bloodline!

And yet...

"You need to stop pushing yourself so hard. Nearly killing yourself does not qualify as training!"

Saiyan women were very different from Earth women. There were much fewer of them, for starters, since almost all of them died in childbirth. That fact alone kept the Saiyan population down until technology that allowed for infants to be cultured and grown became more widely available. Then most females elected to grow their offspring in labs so that they might join their brothers in the art of war and conquest.

Bulma was no warrior. She was soft, weak, something he could snap in half with a breath. And yet, he knew from observing the others that people viewed this woman as a force to be reckoned with, one who would happily take on all of them and win. She wore her femininity like a crown and expected all others to bow to her opinion, no matter how foolish the words that incessantly spewed from her mouth. It was infuriating! How could she be so arrogant and yet so blind to her own limitations, her own helplessness? It made him angry that she stood before him, completely unafraid. Angry that she looked at him with those goddamn eyes of hers...

Angry that he wanted.

"I know you don't want to believe it, but you are made of flesh and blood!"

He'd always been taught that wants and needs were only weaknesses waiting to be exploited. In a world where only the strongest survived, Vegeta followed that code religiously, and annihilated those who were foolish enough not to. As the Prince of all Saiyans, it was his duty and his destiny to be the best, but he had been repeatedly and resoundingly outclassed by the son of a common soldier! How?! It was supposed to be him who fulfilled the prophesy and avenged his people, not that imbecile Kakarrot!

Vegeta angered easily, and his rages were spectacular. Bulma's fearlessness angered him - did he not deserve to be feared? Once upon a time, his merest whims could change the course of history! She treated him like an irresponsible child who needed minding, and maybe he acted that way sometimes. His drive and ambition made him push his body to the limit and beyond in his quest for the unparalleled greatness he once had, and anyone who got in his way was just another stepping stone on his path. He steamrolled over them like the titan he was, and be damned to the consequences. He was the mightiest of Saiyan warriors, raised from the cradle for conquest.

Until he found himself with no people, no conquest, and no one to blame. Frieza was dead. Kakarrot was untouchable. The looming battle with the androids seemed very far away. The only thing left was his own insurmountable goal, the means to reach it, and her. One fragile little human who stood petulantly before him, eyes fearless as she suggested the unthinkable, the impossible, the unavoidable.

Supposedly it was Vegeta's destiny to become the best, and he had pushed toward that destiny his whole life. Now, it seemed that it was also his destiny to die at the hands of these cursed androids in three years, and he was working himself to exhaustion and beyond to avoid it. Was it destiny if he changed it with his own hands? Was it destiny if someone else beat him to it? Where was the meaning in that?

Fine then.

Before she had time to react, Vegeta gripped Bulma by the back of the neck and pulled her towards him, expertly shedding her of all clothing as he did so. She gave a small gasp of surprise, then set about gently but firmly tugging off his armor and tracing the lines of the newly-healed scars underneath. There was no foreplay, only business.

He would have this conquest, at least.

Win? Fail? Divide by zero? Review and tell me what you think.